6 Decorating Mistakes I Made in My Home in 2015

6 mistakes

UPDATED: I started out with 4 Mistakes, but then I added two more, carry on..

I’ve been creating a home for 20 years in 14 different homes–mostly rentals, three we owned.

I love home making so much that I wrote a book about it and even taught a class. So imagine my shock when it wasn’t until AFTER I taught my class, that I was finally convinced to make some much-needed changes in our fixer-upper.


We have spent so much time and money on really big projects in our home in the past few years (kitchen, bathroom, barn renovation, structural stuff) that even though I preach the power of a few smart choices, I somehow lost my belief that making a few better decisions was worth the time, money and trouble.

I was wrong.

Here’s how I made it right…

1. Ceiling and Trim

We knew when we bought this fixer-upper that we were signing up for more than painting walls. The trim in the house was small, old and mismatched, especially so after we tore down walls to re-do the kitchen. The ceilings were sprayed on, and the new kitchen ceiling had never even been painted. It sat undone for two years.


We knew how fresh and clean they would feel once we scraped them. But for some reason it was really hard for me to invest the money or elbow grease on tackling these projects.

Re-doing a kitchen is obvious–you have new counters and bigger counter space, it was becoming difficult for me to believe redoing the ceilings and trim was worth it.

Until I decided to believe it.


The canvas you start with in a space makes or breaks a room.

And this is the part I was so excited about after eight years of renting–we finally got to choose our ceilings! I had been unable to make changes to my home’s canvas for so long, I wasn’t confident it was truly worth it. But after coaching others in the Cozy Minimalist class that their canvas mattered, I decided to take my own advice.

planked ceilings

We did our ceilings exactly the way we wanted. Imperfectly planked ceilings that worked great with our flooring and all new fresh trim. It was the BEST money we spent on the house, it made me finally fall in love with our home because it fit with the vision I had for it when we purchased it.

bead chandelier

2. Switch Out a Wimpy Chandelier

When we bought the house I knew it needed a wood chandelier. Wood is rustic, soft (as opposed to something stark and shiny metal) and I love lighting that seconds as art/style. Sadly, even though I already know most of America makes this mistake–I bought a chandelier that I loved, but it was too small.

But I spent hard-earned money and I didn’t want to admit that I made a mistake.

So I kept it for two years.

Until I didn’t.

wood chandelier

I finally gave myself permission to admit I bought a chandy that was too small for the space. And I allowed myself to buy a new one.

What happens when you get the right sized things for a room? You don’t have to compensate with a lot of extra stuff. Finally getting a better scaled chandelier was so worth the money, now my table doesn’t look forgotten if it’s cleared off–it just looks right because the chandelier commands so much attention that I don’t need much else.

bead chandelier


3. Don’t Force A Gallery Wall

Having a corner sofa is so comfy! And so hard to decorate the walls above. In our last house I had a beautifully curated, meaningful gallery wall that made its way into all sorts of magazines. I was sure I needed a gallery wall over the sofa in this house.

I tweaked it for two years…

sad gallery wall


how to make a gallery wall

wrong gallery wall

Now I can see how I was placing things all wrong (here’s a tip, start with the visually heaviest things in the middle/bottom). But also, I was convinced I’d only be happy if I had a gallery wall here. The truth is, gallery walls are one of the most difficult walls to get right.

Until I tried something else…

non-gallery wall

Finally, I tried the simple route. And loved it.

4. Stop Compensating with Smalls

This sickness is something I can hardly shake. I love smalls, tchotckees, geegaw and the like. If I’m out shopping I’m always drawn to small things, but I’ve learned, you get much more impact, style and voice by using just a few large objects. Plus, you get more space back and ultimate save money. It really is a win, win, win.

If I don’t watch it, my surfaces start to look like this—a parade of cute smalls!

individually, they don’t cost much, and I like each item but…


I find I’m happier when I spend my money on one or two larger items that are more like signature pieces. The relax canvas has much more power in the room than the 12 things combined on my mantle in the photo above, don’t you agree?

It’s riskier to invest in one large piece instead of 20 smaller pieces, but I’ve learned it’s a better way to get the style I’m after without needing to use a million little things. Amen.

no smalls

5. Invest in the right size rug

Here’s the thing. When you move, your old stuff just might not work as well in the next house.

I held out for two years with our rug from our last house…even writing a post about how I layered rugs to make it all work.


When we moved here we didn’t have the money to buy a new rug, and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted yet, so we used what we had and I really liked it!

Until the old rug started to wear out.


And that’s when I bought a new rug that cost a lot less than the previous one, and it was large enough for all of our furniture to have legs on the rug! That’s the goal in a family room–the rug isn’t supposed to be an island in the middle of the room, it’s the friend that brings all the other pieces together and units a space. So ideally, you and I want a large rug.

6. Change A Paint Color That’s All Wrong, Even if You Just Painted it (UGH!)

rain paint

I had painted one wall in our bedroom a beautiful dark color (peppercorn) and I added white dashes–I LOVE this look! So simple, so inexpensive, and it only took a few hours!

BUT. It was the wrong color for a room on the side of the house that gets no sun. This room became depressing, even though I still love the idea of the wall and its lighthearted dashes.

It was hard to decide to paint over something I loved but wasn’t right for the room, but I knew it was the best choice and once it was done, our room no longer felt depressing–that’s always a plus!



Home is a work in progress and imperfect and a collection of things we love and need–things that reflect our style as a family and the season of life we are living. It’s there to serve us, and I like knowing that I have the confidence to know how to get the style I’m after without breaking the family budget.

cozy minimalist

If you want to make some changes in your home, won’t you consider joining me in the Cozy Minimalist Decorating Class? The class is currently closed but we re-open a few times a year, sign up for the waiting list and we’ll email you when we are open again!

It’s all about how to get the style you love, using just the right amount of stuff. Teaching this class prompted me to make all these changes in my home–I already knew all this stuff, but I needed to be re-convinced that it was worth the time and trouble and the money.

how to decorate

Whether you rent or own, have a big decorating budget or need to rely on shopping the house, this friendly self-study program will guide you step by step, on exactly how to take one room in your house and make changes that will serve you and your family.

We’ll talk about rugs, drapes, wall art (& gallery wall best practices) signature pieces, furniture arrangement, TV tips, lighting, accessories, plants, and your rooms canvas along with finding your personal style & inspiration.) It’s gonna be SO FUN! And your room is gonna look so good!

We’ve have had over 2000 happy Cozy Minimalists take this course, they all have different styles, budgets, homes, and life stages.


The class is designed to last 4 weeks (a one hour lesson each week with beautiful photos and me guiding you through it all, and a weekly assignment for you to complete in your home) but you can of course complete it at your own pace.

Check out the class now to find out more, and sign up for the waiting list and we’ll email you when we re-open!

how to decorate




  1. DO NOT FORCE A GALLERY WALL!!!! I love this and would create this to be the best decor advice on the internet right now. A gallery wall should be an expression of what YOU love, if you dont love it then it has no business in the gallery. Period, I think to many people force items into their wall because it ‘looks good’ or ‘trendy’ items say SO much more if you truly LOVE them, and I mean love them like, I didnt buy it at the store and Im obsessing about said item two days later. Great advice!!!!

    • I agree!

      And also disagree, Yes, I want you to love everything on your wall, BUT if there isn’t enough stuff to choose from that you love, no matter how desperately you love each item, they simply might not look great together–which is also a form of force (gallery wall abuse? :)

      But YES, you are correct!

  2. I love that you talk about your mistakes. Is that wrong? I don’t mean I’m happy you made mistakes. More of a “phew, it’s not just me” feeling.

    One of my mistakes was waiting to make any changes until I could do it the “right way”. I just uploaded my low disruption, low cost kitchen redo on my blog. I’m very happy with it. Every time I go in there it feels like it is saying, “See! You can make positive changes!”

    If anyone is considering taking the class, TAKE THE CLASS. Awesome class, I loved it, and it is STILL helping me out.

    • I always learn more from my mistakes than from simply getting lucky and getting it right! I’ll be glad to make mistakes so you don’t have too! REally, in a way, mistakes are still progress. I’m so happy about your kitchen, Dixie, you were a star student!

  3. Is access to original online course ongoing after the four weeks? If not, when does access expire?
    Thank you!

    • It never expires, even when the class closes, members always have access for as long as they need it, that way you can go back and watch it again for a refresher course! xo

      • It just struck me today, the happiest I’ve been with my house was when I had to pack away some stuff to get our house ready to sell. The less clutter and wide open spaces look and a little strategic styling for the photos was amazing. Crazy. I guess I need to pretend to sell my house again!!!

  4. Karrie Blanchard says

    Is this the original Cozy Minimalist class (which I already took and loved) or is this a new edition?

    • It’s the original Cozy, although we’ve also added a new, separate course–Cozy Minimalist Mom–for moms, it’s tips about keeping a sane house with kids–click on the same link to find out more! xo

  5. I like how your style is becoming quieter and calmer. II can really see it in your photos.

  6. I love your antler prints. Can you tell me where you got them?
    Great post. We’ve recently moved into a rented house when me husband got a new job offer. I’m in the process of redecorating it and trying to make it ours so your course sounds just what I need. If I’m not able to register for this one (pennies are short) when will you run it again?

  7. Lisa Mothersead says

    Love the idea of buying bigger and better quality items over lots of littles. Paige Knudsen has written beautifully about this, also. Love your easy to breathe through home, also.

  8. Thanks for sharing your mistakes. I want to think I know what I’m doing, until I do it. Sigh… And, I just purchased a, bigger than I normally would have, light fixture for my living room, with your advice in mind. I just hope it isn’t too big. In the meantime, I’ll have to live with my old throw rug, until I pay off the light fixture. I love that you encourage and remind us, that everything doesn’t have to be done at once. Thanks-Karen

    • Good for you Karen! I clicked on your blog to see if I could find it, but I didn’t see it, YES, slowly over time, that’s how we create a home!

  9. I like your blog, but I would enjoy is all a lot more if it didn’t seem like everything I get from you now is an ad for your course. I know you have it and don’t need to hear about it all the time. It makes me feel like it isn’t a design blog anymore as much as it is ongoing sales pitch.

    • Yes, one other thing I’ve done in the past year is remove most of the ads here. BUT, that means I need to bring in income in other ways–ways that make more sense and help more people than an ad, I’m so happy with the course and it has helped so many people and it closes tonight, so there will be months and months where I don’t talk about it, but right before it closes, I will talk about it a lot. Why? Because no matter how much I remind people, tomorrow and next week I will get emails from people asking if they can still sign up. It’s a balance and I’m doing my best!

  10. Thanks for sharing your mistakes! I could definitely identify with you on a few.

    I just recently graduated college, and have my first (rent ) home. It’s be SO FUN to finally get to decorate and learn what my style is, and you’ve been a huge inspiration! I just recently read your book, and COULDN’T put it down. Thanks for sharing your nesting journey!

  11. Love all the tweaks you made to make each room just right. Bravo!

  12. I love everything you’ve (re) done! The kitchen looks especially snappy.

  13. I just went under contract for a tiny 770 square foot house built in 1925. I want to be sure my new house feel cozy and homey but not cluttered and busy. Fingers crossed your course will get me there!

  14. Alicia Damron says

    I love the sunburst looking bare bulb light fixture you have in the room with the fireplace. Will you please share where you got it?

  15. I love all your changes and your look is right on! It’s amazing how good that new dining room chandy looks! I am not being negative or critical, but I was thinking that the three side tables you have in front of your leather sofa are a part of the “small” pattern. Individually, they are such cool pieces, but they just don’t seem to be the right choice for the space. I love everything else, and it’s your home, of course. It’s just from my perspective! Please don’t be insulted. I am not a mean girl, I promise!

    • Design wise they aren’t the perfect choice, you are right–but for our family with three boys and how we live in the space, they are perfect for right now. If I lived here alone, this room would look totally different, or if our boys were moved out, that’s part of making a home–and actually a great idea for a post!

  16. I love that chandy and these are such helpful tips! Do you have any tips for choosing the right-sized chandelier or is it just trial and error?

  17. I agree on everything you have done here with the exception of that master bedroom (sorry!)! I love a moody, sexy bedroom no matter what kind of light it is getting! But you’ve done well, mamma!

    To be completely honest and not that you care or have asked (ha ha!) I was so hoping you would move away from the little items all over the place and filling all of the spaces just because you had the space and the amazing decor to go with it. The gallery walls bothered me everywhere and not because they didn’t look awesome (they did) but it started to be a bit much. And I can attest to this because I did it!!! You’ve always been a decor inspiration to me and I love that you are putting more statement pieces in the house. That chandelier? To die for. Rock on.

  18. Hello M,
    I purchased the cozy minimalist class, but haven’t been able to take it yet. How do I go about starting it? Sorry, I didn’t see another area where I could ask questions.

    • I have the same question – I purchased the class but haven’t received any additional information on how to start. Thanks!

      • I think you both received your login information by now, but if not, of course you can email us (or simply hit reply to your receipt email) and we’ll resend the login information!

        • Alicia Damron says

          For some reason I received this reply from you in my email. I didn’t leave the original comment so I’m not sure why I got the reply. Maybe that’s part of the reason that the person hasn’t gotten their info?

          • oh no! sorry about that! the class & blog aren’t connected at all so now I’m wondering if you are automatically getting emails for all the comments after yours! When you leave a comment there’s a box underneath that sometimes accidentally gets checked!

  19. These are great tips and some of these I’ve done myself. It’s such a good learning experience looking back and seeing how things can be different and work better in the home. I’ve got half a gallery wall up right now – it drives me crazy but I know it’s the right move.

  20. I love your honesty and am just eating up your blog. Thanks for sharing. I think we have a room in our house that needs to be reevaluated with it’s paint color. It’s so sad when you go to all that hardwork, just to paint over.

    A heads up that I just wrote an article on my blog about hospitality and I promoted your beautiful book! Thanks for being such a valuable resource to so many. :) Happy Monday!

  21. Are you selling the worn out too small rug? I’d totally
    Buy it!

  22. Let the “bleaching” begin! You have inspired me to edit my accessories, ditch my khaki walls, and embrace the color white. About to go to town with a few cans of Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee! Thanks, Nester!

  23. What a refreshing post! I slipped out for over a year because of those very reasons you listed in the post. So glad I stopped back by for a visit. Looking forward to what comes about the longer you live in your new home. When I first moved into our new home, it was several years before I found anything to put on the walls and then I went through a number of arrangements that ended up being for me what your galley wall was for you. As a matter of fact, I still haven’t found the “right” fit for my walls, but at least I know what doesn’t work. It’s all progress. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Thank you for your vulnerability! There’s a tension when you share what you love and have to stand up under the criticism! I hope to be so brave someday. Your house always has fresh, modern touches that feel real and relaxing, no matter the finished state of the room. I’m wondering the new choice of color for your bedroom- as I’m trying to convince the hubs that the blue we painted 5 years ago is just making my head swim :):)

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